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Athenian Builders Creating the Parthenon


Athenian architectures still stand today. The Athenians developed and built the buildings to specific math ratios. Their buildings were perfectly designed and symmetrical, but this leads to a simple question. How did science and economics influence the way figure 5.15 Parthenon(The image to the left), 448-432 B.C.E. was built? This can be broken down into mathematical relationships and shifts in the economy.

Parthenon figure 5.15(The image to the left) the followed mathematical relationships. The building at first glance appears overwhelming and intimating, but how was this done? The Greeks must have had weight distribution completely mastered as can be seen in figure 5.12(the image below) in this picture; Zeus appears perfectly balanced in an unnatural human position, showing the Athenians understanding of the mathematical relationships. This mathematical relationship was a well-kept secret, but it is common knowledge today. There is no dispute that the Parthenon followed the golden proportion (0.618: 1) (O'Connor). This ratio was perfectly designed to make a flawless building that gave proper weight distribution; otherwise, the building would have collapsed on itself. Essentially the size of the structure would not matter as long as the mathematical relationships are maintained; therefore, seemingly unrealistic thirty-four foot Parthenon structure seems much more realistic. The Greeks were master crafters; every column was completely identical to the one next to it (Fiero 123). They must have developed tools that aided the building process such as saws, hammers, chisels, and drills (Xanthippos). In today's standards these tools are somewhat out of date with all of our new automatic hand tools and construction cranes. We should, however, give credit to the genius of the Athenians for designing architecture that incorporates perfect mathematical concepts as well as beautiful architecture.

The Parthenon figure 5.15(The image to the left) caused shifts in the economy. The building of the structure created jobs in the Athenian economy. The massive thirty-four foot marble structure required massive amounts of raw resources and hundreds of hours of man power. Each piece had to be mad off sight to perfection and carried back to the place of building. The marble pieces had to be rolled on logs and raised into place by building up wooden structures. Since each piece of the structure was very the Athena's, they incorporated earthquake protection into their design by slanting their pieces (Whitaker). Due to the high cost of these projects, it was often supported by the people. The society as a whole used these structures for enjoying life instead of the afterlife (Fiero 122).

With these ideas in mind, no one minded the hard labor they had to put out for the completion of this and many more projects to come. These projects were not short lived. More than likely, the Athenians would have to work on these projects non-stop for years at a time to complete one. The construction of Parthenon took roughly from 447-432 B.C.E. (Demetris). Since this was not a short and simple task, they had to centralize their economy on the development of this project. They had to be one hundred percent accurate when making the individual marble sections because there was no un-do button. Unlike today, we can use a computer to design our buildings flawlessly. Once an error was made, the long process of individually carving all the fine details into the section of the structure and the overall shaped had to be restarted. This technique seems foolish to me because of the high risk of failure that they allowed. This could also possibly explain why it took the Greeks fifteen years to make the Parthenon (Demetris).

Mathematical relationships and economic shifts can be seen in Athenian architecture. The strict rule of thumb to follow the golden ratio developed through geometry allowed the Greeks to build extremely tall buildings for their time. Also, their centralized economy allowed the continuous development of the Parthenon for a solid fifteen years. Together these two influences changed the way Greek architectures as a whole were built in their society.
Zeus Image5.12: Zeus

Works Cited

Fiero, Gloria K. "Minoan Civilization." The Humanistic Tradition: the First Civilizations and the Classical Legacy. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2011. 122-123. Print.

Xanthippos, DIonysia. "Greek Building Tools." AncientWorlds. 13 Nov. 2010. Web. 21 Oct. 2011. Web.

Whitaker, Alex. "Ancient Construction Techniques." Ancient-Wisdom - Online Guide to Prehistory. Nov. 2010. Web. 21 Oct. 2011. Web.

O'Connor, J. J., and E. F. Robertson. "Mathematics and Architecture." Mathematics and Architecture. Feb. 2002. Web. 21 Oct. 2011. Web.

Demetris. "Links to Classical Architecture, ELLHNIKH MOUSIKH (MUSIC), to Hellas Online, and Greek News/issues. Greek Music Collections Available from Good Old ZAGORAIOS to the New SOYXE SFAKIANAKIS. This Is DEMETRIS"S HELLINIKH SELIDA "GIA MAGES KAI GIA TSOUP(R)ES." Angelfire: Welcome to Angelfire. 24 Jan. 1997. Web. 21 Oct. 2011. Web.

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